Sunday, September 29, 2013

"Heeeeeeeere kitty kitty kitty..."

It's been a super busy weekend.  I got a lot of things done, which was good.  I dog-sat for my friend, which was fine.  I got my dog a haircut, which ended up being traumatic for both of us... Mo-Man was literally hiding under my skirt with just his little tail peeking out, whimpering.  (I'm pretty sure I'm now prepared for leaving my kid at daycare for the first time when he/she clings to me crying).  I saw a lady come into Petsmart with 4 huge parrots riding on her shoulder/cart.  I made food for this week, and also made pumpkin cookies to take to work tomorrow, just because I wanted to make pumpkin cookies.  I cleaned and organized the house, and took a boatload of stuff to Goodwill.  I did something that ended up being time-consuming that I didn't want to do, but I did anyway.  I went grocery shopping, and went shopping for a work event thing I'm organizing.  I went to church, I talked to a friend I've been trying to connect with for weeks, I helped my elderly Deaf neighbor set up for a big birthday party, even though I didn't completely understand what she wanted because she was signing too fast for me to keep up.  I wrote some notes for work, and I did my laundry.  I have a few more notes to write, but this is coming first.  I am worn out.  These were all things that needed to get done, but I'll also acknowledge that I needed a fast-paced weekend to keep me moving.  I had to keep myself busy so that I wouldn't think too much.  It worked, for sure.  Only now, I have to start the week and I'm already worn out.  Plus, that avoidance stuff never works.  It just doesn't.  But I got a pretty productive weekend out of the deal, right?  That's something!

Yesterday I promised some crazy neighbor stories from when I was a kid.  I could tell you the story of when our greyhound got out and my Scandinavian neighbor was in the woods next to our yard trying to herd his goats back in, and he caught the greyhound by his front legs.  He was shocked that the dog bit him (not broken skin or anything, but bit him nonetheless).  Can you imagine catching a greyhound by the legs?  I can still picture him standing there, holding the dog by its front legs, saying in a thick accent, "your dog bit me.  Your dog bit me!"

Or I could tell you the story of my neighbor who believed he was the second coming of Christ, was fired from every job he worked at for stalking women (including jobs overseas), and spent all his days writing his manifesto.  My mom decided it was an okay thing to give my 12-year-old writing to this guy to "get his opinion on," given that he was such a prolific writer.  That was awkward.

Or I could tell you about my alcoholic neighbor with the Civil War era rifles that provided blasts that punctuate most of my childhood memories.  I could tell you about the way he used to save us snakes and turtles to see, and the way he always mowed around the milkweed in the field after we told him that it attracts the monarchs.  Or I could tell you about the moose head and the wall of deer heads in his house, and the time he shot the owl, and the hawk, and the song birds, even though it's illegal.  I could tell you about the time the SWAT team was called and blocked off our driveway for hours trying to talk to him inside with a negotiator outside, but it turned out he was actually just passed out in the basement.  Or I could tell you about how he seemingly hit on my sisters and I when he was drunk, and how he would wave to us while he was peeing in the front yard, and how we always knew when he was drinking again because the stop sign would get run over, his wife would take his keys, and then we'd see him riding his tractor down the highway to the liquor store.  Every time.

I COULD tell you about the lady who was an alcoholic at the end of the street who lived behind the gates with the swimming pool and the tennis courts and drove like a bat out of hell.  There was a neighborhood story about the time she thought a kid disrespected her when she drove by, and she got out of her car and chased him down the neighborhood towards his house.  I tried to sell her a candy bar once to raise money for my Irish dance group.  She wouldn't buy a $1 candy bar with a $1 coupon inside.  Her husband was my dad's anesthesiologist when he had surgery a few years ago.  This fact creeps me out.

Instead, though I'll tell you about the neighbor who lived behind us named Donny.  Behind our house was a line of trees and then a big field.  Donny's house was in the middle of that field.  His driveway was off of a different street than ours was, and his house was rarely visible, depending on how high the grass was in the field.  Donny had a girlfriend, and together they had twins that, at the time of this story, were around 4 years old.  My alcoholic milkweed saving neighbor went over there once and reported back that the best thing to do with the house would be to dig a hole and push the whole damn thing inside.  Under the porch was infested with snakes.  There were cats everywhere.  There were pieces of cars and farm equipment scattered around outside.  We had been over once before and, although I had not yet met Donny himself, I can assure you that it was worse than you are imagining. 

I had seen "bad" before.  We had gone to a farm one time to talk about getting goats from them, and the farmhouse was so trashed and dark and filthy, I came out with my pink dance tights under my shorts turned black, and my sister had a wad of bubblegum stuck to her butt.  Donny's house made Goat Lady's house look good.  We passed dead deer carcasses on the driveway coming up to the house.  The 4-year-olds were running around mostly naked.  There was trash and beer bottles and whiskey bottles and broken glass everywhere you looked. 

But that wasn't the scariest thing about Donny.  Donny also had semi-automatic weapons that he liked to shoot off into the field at random times.  12:30AM on some random Wednesday, for example.  Or 1:30pm on Sunday.  Or 10:15 on Friday, or 7:10AM one Tuesday morning, or pretty much any time Donny felt like shooting off a round, we would hear "BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP BAP!"  Sometimes there would be a second round.  Other times not.  We could only assume that, after shooting off his porch, or into the field, or into the air, or whatever it was he was doing, Donny would go back into his house and keep watching the soaps and drinking his beer, or whatever it was he was doing in there.  The boogey man of my childhood was Donny.  I had nightmares about him being in our basement.  I pictured him chasing us through the woods, when I had only my bent metal spoon to protect myself.  And this was before The Donny Story happened.

When I was about 11, we had a dog who was an escape artist.  He would dig holes under the fence faster than you could believe was possible, and both he and our little dog would escape and run free together.  Even when the fence was lined with railroad ties, that dog found a way to get out.  One day, the dogs got out, and we couldn't find them.  We called and called and called and ran through all the normal spots, but we couldn't find them.  Then, my mom came out of the house with her car keys.  "Get in the car, Auto," she said.  I did.  She didn't say anything else, and for a moment, I didn't ask.  As we pulled off of our road, however, I was confused.

"Where are we going?"

"We're going to go ask Donny."

I paused.  For real?  Is this a good idea?  "...about what?" I finally managed.

"We're going to go ask Donny if he's seen the dogs."

"Oh," I said.  I was silent as we turned down Donny's gravel driveway with the pot holes and the deer parts and the scattering cats and the "Keep Out" signs.  We pulled up to the house, and a man emerged with a drink and walked over to the passenger side.

"Hey Donny," my mom said in the too-loud voice with a slight Southern accent she gets when she's nervous.

"Hey," he said, raising his eyebrows at me, and looking at me in a way that made me want to hide.

"We're just looking for our dogs," my mom said, still too loud and Southern.

"Cat got your tongue?" he asked me, ignoring my mother.

I couldn't say anything.  He had wild, long hair, had not shaved in a while, had breath that smelled like alcohol and death, and he had only one tooth that I could see.  Donny in the flesh was even worse than Donny in my mind, which is generally not how those sorts of things are supposed to go, you know?

He looked to my mother.  "Depends," he said.  "What type-a dog?"  My mother described our dogs.

"Nope," he said, leaning onto the passenger window and bringing his alcohol and death breath closer to my face.  "Hey, kid," he said to me.  "How old are you."

"I'm 11," I said, a little too loud and Southern.

"11..." he paused.  "You know how to shoot a gun yet?"

I waited, hoping my mother would jump in and answer for me.  She didn't.  "," I said.  He didn't say anything, so I hesitantly added, "...not...not yet."

"Lady, you got any guns over there?" he asked my mother.

" know...I know how to shoot," my mother said.  I could tell she was lying.  So could Donny.  He laughed.

"You know what I do, kid?" he asked me.  I shook my head no.  "I like to go out in-a woods...and I like to shoot-a little foxes, because they look just like little kitties, right?  So I go out in-a woods and I call'em.  I call'em like this, I go 'heeeeeeeeeere kitty kitty kitty.'"  He paused and stuck his head in the window, inches from my face.  "And then I shoot'em," he concluded.

I nodded.  "Okay," I said, unsure what other reaction might be appropriate.  I smiled, just because that seemed like the right thing to do.

"Okay, Donny, we're going to go look for our dogs.  You have a good day now, ya hear?" my mother said.  We drove off, kicking dust and gravel up behind us.  I didn't look back.  (We found the dogs elsewhere).

A few weeks later, my mother and I were at the grocery store down the street.  From way down the store, a vaguely familiar voice called, "Hey Lady!"  Neither my mom nor I paid any attention to it.  "Lady!"  Again, we ignored it.  "Hey Lady!" the voice yelled, slightly more familiar now.  We turned in the direction of the voice.  It was Donny. 

"Hey Lady!" he yelled again.  "Did you buy yourself a gun yet?"

While I quickly scanned the store for anyone we knew, my mom's voice got loud and deep and Southern as she bellowed back, "No, Donny....not yet."

Donny's girlfriend left him and took the kids shortly after, and then Donny was evicted and lost the house.  I have no idea what became of him.  The property is still there, barely standing, having changed hands many times and remained vacant for longer.  Most recently it was a "clubhouse" for a bunch of guys who rode their dirt bikes around the field.  I drove over there a few years ago, and although the owner has changed, I could still hear the gravelly voice of the man with one tooth calling "heeeeeeeeeere kitty kitty kitty..."

I wish I could say there was a point or a moral to this story...but there's not.  What you have here is purely story for story's sake.  I think you need to indulge in a little of that every now and then, no?

1 comment:

  1. You should write a novel about all your neighbors. Donny could be ..... ummm.... an undercover cop! ;-)